An innovative learning partnership is currently taking place between undergraduates in Bryant University Professor Allison Butler’s Educational Psychology course and fifth grade students in Sandra Lenore’s class at Anna McCabe Elementary School. The purpose of the learning partnership is to use videoconferencing to provide educational psychology students with a “window” into a live classroom, thus allowing opportunities for undergraduates to see theories and principles in action. The fifth grade students benefit from opportunities to experience videoconferencing technology, to practice presentation and verbal communication skills, and to observe a university classroom environment. Professor Butler and Mrs. Lenore have been meeting regularly since January to plan out the design and learning objectives for each session.
Five pre-planned videoconferences are taking place between February and May. The undergraduates are observing sample fifth grade lessons and group work sessions; serving as an audience for fifth graders’ informal presentations of their current work/projects; taking video tours of the classroom; conducting interviews with the classroom teacher; and engaging in dialogue with the fifth grade class about peer relations, moral reasoning, and other themes related to educational psychology. The specific themes for the five videoconferences are: (1) Constructivism (Piaget, Vygotsky); (2) Social & Moral Development (3) Information Processing/ Memory; (4) Educational Policy; and (5) Motivation.
For example, in the first videoconference which took place on Feb. 15, Educational Psychology students observed two parts of a fifth grade language arts lesson related to the novel Tuck Everlasting. In Part I of the lesson, the students met in a circle on a reading rug with their teacher to engage in an “Alphablocks” activity in which students identified themes and motifs that emerge in the novel.
The educational psychology students had the opportunity to see the Vygotskian learning concepts of intersubjectivity, scaffolding, and zone of proximal development applied in this lesson. In Part II of the lesson, fifth grade students worked in small, mixed ability groups on a character development activity. Students illustrated a character from Tuck Everlasting and will ultimately depict character traits that they believe best represent that character. Again, educational psychology students were able to apply Vygotskian and Piagetian concepts to the group work/discussion that they observe.
The second videoconference was also comprised of two parts. In the first half of the session, educational psychology students asked fifth graders questions regarding friendship and peer relations. Following the discussion, educational psychology students presented a classic Kohlberg moral dilemma to the fifth graders. After the videoconference and through the course discussion board, educational psychology students will connect the fifth graders’ comments to Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning.
The third videoconference focused on information processing and memory. The fifth graders presented samples of games and activities they do in school (e.g., Bingo, Sparkle, illustrating math problems) to solidify their understanding of important concepts. Then, Professor Butler used the Groupboard application on a Lenovo slate to run some memory exercises with the fifth graders (e.g., digit span exercises)
In the fourth videoconference, Mrs. Lenore spoke to the educational psychology students about her opinions regarding current educational policy, standardized testing, teacher evaluation procedures, and the tenure process. Educational psychology students had seen the movie Waiting for Superman which also touched on these themes, so Mrs. Lenore was able to provide an experienced teacher’s perspective.
The last videoconference will take place this Wednesday at 1:00 and will focus on motivation. The conference will begin with the educational psychology students asking the fifth graders to discuss their most and least favorite school subjects and projects they have completed. There will also be questions regarding how their parents and teachers help them when they are having trouble getting something done or doing their best work. Then Mrs. Lenore will speak privately to the class regarding some specific motivational challenges she has encountered throughout the year.
This partnership will culminate with Professor Butler and a group of educational psychology students surprising the fifth graders with an ice cream party at Anna McCabe Elementary School in mid-May. The Bryant students will present certificates of recognition, as well as some Bryant souvenirs, to the fifth graders to thank them for their participation in the partnership.
Professor Butler, Mrs. Lenore, and Applied Psychology major Jenifer Perez ’13 (the undergraduate research assistant on this project) shared this work at REDay and will also present it at a Smithfield School Committee meeting on May 21st. Professor Butler and Dave Gannon (Associate Director, Academic Computing & Media Services) will present the technological aspects of the project at the New England Faculty Development Conference in June.